(Includes excerpts from the September, 8 2013 article written by Stephen Wall and published in the Press Enterprise)
The ninth annual “Remember Our Heroes” tribute held Sunday, September 8, at Fairmount Park was put on by the Moms of Military, a nonprofit prayer and support group for women with loved ones in the armed forces. The celebration recognized five military heroes with the unveiling of banners in their honor.
(Jesus Lopez, points to the name of his son, Pfc. Jesus Lopez, on a plaque honoring fallen veterans at the event. Photo Credit: Stephen Wall)
Maria Lopez’s son died for his country the day he turned 22. Pfc. Jesus Lopez was killed by an improvised explosive device Aug. 1, 2012, while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The fallen soldier from San Bernardino was one of the five heroes honored at the celebration.
“I’m very proud that they’re honoring him,” Maria Lopez said in an interview at the park. “He just wanted to become something big in the military.”
Mary Badalamente, leader of the Moms of Military Riverside chapter, said it’s critical to remember the heroes “who give their all and put their lives on the line for our country and our freedom.”
Also honored with banners were Marine Cpl. Christopher Singer, of Temecula; Marine Cpl. Joshua Ashley, of Rancho Cucamonga; Marine Cpl. Robby Reyes, of Rancho Cucamonga; and Army Spc. Jose Luis Mora, of Bell Gardens.
A ceremony and candlelight vigil to pay tribute to the war heroes was scheduled to take place Sunday evening. The event also served to commemorate the sacrifice of the first responders who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“A lot of these people here were firefighters,” said Steve Malone, a 55-year-old Yucaipa resident who was looking at pictures of those who died at the World Trade Center. “You see them with their hats on. Because of their jobs, they’re the first ones to step out. We kind of take it for granted what they do.”
Diana Yegge, 60, of Riverside, said her father, the late Ray Carrasco, served in the Army during World War II. A member of American Legion Post 79 Women’s Auxiliary, Yegge said it would be tragic if people forgot about Sept. 11.
“It’s events like this that keep the memories alive of what happened on the East Coast,” Yegge said. “It affects everybody in the whole country.”
Maria De La Pena, who turns 18 next month, said she hopes to make it into the Marines. The senior at Arlington High School in Riverside said being in the ROTC program has helped her turn her life around.
“I know that if I join the Marines, I’m going to stay on the right path my whole life,” she said.
Sunday’s event also featured free games for kids, face painting, a coloring contest and live music. Moms of Military will continue to remember, honor and support the men and women in uniform, Badalamente said.
“Just like Pearl Harbor, our generation has felt the impact of 9/11,” Badalamente said. “We vow that our loved ones won’t be forgotten.”
Riverside is a Unified City that honors its heroes and remembers those who sacrifice themselves to serve and protect our community and our country.
Read the full article as published September 8, 2013 in the Press Enterprise, here.